World Reputation Rankings 2011 analysis
Elite Anglo-American names dominate THE World Reputation Rankings. John Morgan reports
The world regards an elite group of six universities as being head and shoulders above the rest, a new global ranking of higher education institutions has found. The results of the first Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings, based on an invitation-only survey of more than 13,000 academics around the world, also reinforce the US' dominant international position and indicate that Japanese universities have a strong global standing.
The survey, conducted in eight languages by Ipsos Media CT for THE's ranking-data partner Thomson Reuters, asked experienced academics to highlight what they believed to be the strongest universities for teaching and research in their own fields.
The rankings suggest that the top six - Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Cambridge, University of California, Berkeley, Stanford University and the University of Oxford - form a group of globally recognised "super brands".
Simon Pratt, project manager for institutional research at Thomson Reuters, said: "Reputational measures are highly skewed, with the top universities getting many multiples of the responses that universities lower down the table receive."
He added that the data "show a significant difference in the reputational standing of the top six, with a drop in the number of responses below that level".
Harvard tops the table, while California has three institutions in the top 10 (Berkeley, Stanford and the California Institute of Technology). This means that the US state has more top 10 institutions than the entire UK.
The survey was part of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2010-11, published last September, which included objective measures of research performance and funding. The reputation data, collected in spring 2010, are published in isolation for the first time.
Trading on the name?
The figures show that UK universities do better on reputation than on actual performance, prompting concerns that the nation is "trading on reputation" that could be damaged by government policy.
Of the 12 UK universities in the reputation top 100, eight improve on their performance in the overall rankings. Cambridge rises from sixth in the World University Rankings to third in the reputation table, while the London School of Economics - which has seen its reputation take a battering in recent weeks - rises from 86th to 37th.
Others to do well include the University of Manchester (87th in the overall rankings but in the 61-70 bracket on reputation alone) and the University of Leeds (168th overall but in the 81-90 reputation bracket).
Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, said the UK had "a proud international reputation", but added that "in the global market, we will soon get found out if we think we can trade on reputation alone".
She added: "The government should stop attacking universities and look at what other countries are doing: investing in higher education in the long-term interests of society." Of the UK's 12 representatives in the reputation top 100, 11 are members of the Russell Group of large research-intensive universities.
Several institutions from the 1994 Group of smaller research-intensive universities that made the overall top 100 drop out of the reputation table, suggesting their global profile does not match their performance.
Size also seems to matter for Japanese universities, whose scale may be a factor in their strong reputational performance.
Japan has five representatives in the reputation top 100 - the universities of Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Tohoku, plus the Tokyo Institute of Technology - putting it in third place behind the US and UK and ahead of rivals including Australia and Canada.